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Battling Pornography
The American Feminist Anti-Pornography Movement, 1976–1986

$30.99 (G)

  • Date Published: June 2011
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107400399

$ 30.99 (G)

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About the Authors
  • Pornography catapulted to the forefront of the American women's movement in the 1980s, singled out by some leading feminists as a key agent of female oppression and celebrated by others as an essential ingredient of sexual liberation. In Battling Pornography, Carolyn Bronstein locates the origins of anti-pornography sentiment in the turbulent social and cultural history of the late 1960s and 1970s, including women's mixed responses to the sexual revolution, and explains the gradual emergence of a controversial anti-pornography movement. Based on extensive original archival research, the book reveals that that the seeds of the movement were planted by groups who protested the proliferation of advertisements, Hollywood films, and other mainstream media that glorified sexual violence. Over time, feminist leaders redirected the emphasis from violence to pornography to leverage rhetorical power, unwittingly attracting right-wing supporters who opposed sexual freedom and igniting a forceful feminist counter-movement in defense of sexuality and free speech. Battling Pornography presents a fascinating account of the rise and fall of this significant American social movement and documents the contributions of influential activists on both sides of the pornography debate, including some of the best-known American feminists.

    • Connects changes in American political, cultural and social life to the rise of feminist anti-pornography sentiment
    • Utilizes original archival research that documents the evolution from a feminist movement focused on mainstream media violence to one focused on pornography
    • Challenges the common assumption that the anti-pornography movement enjoyed widespread and unanimous feminist support
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    Reviews & endorsements

    “Bronstein offers a richly detailed portrait of a movement concerned with protecting free speech and women’s sexual freedoms while still holding media corporations, pornographers, and consumers responsible for images of violence against women. This lesser known history casts new light on the more infamous sex wars of the 1980s and adds archival heft to our histories of women’s activism in the 1980s. The history of the anti-porn movement needs this kind of nuanced account to break the mistaken sense of uniformity that adheres to it.” – Jane Gerhard, author of Desiring Revolution: Second-Wave Feminism and the Rewriting of American Sexual Thought, 1920–1982

    “I’ve been hoping someone would write this book, explaining and vindicating the second-wave feminist activists who were against violence but not against sex. Carolyn Bronstein unearthed and carefully describes the complicated facets of feminist activism against pornography in her very aptly named Battling Pornography. This interdisciplinary research tackles pornography and the feminist groups fighting it through media, historical, political, and sociological lenses. Bronstein cogently places her analysis in the context of other feminist, left-wing, mainstream, and trade books and articles on feminist anti-pornography activism.” – Joanne Belknap, University of Colorado at Boulder, author of The Invisible Woman: Gender, Crime, and Justice, Third Edition

    “In an engagingly written and comprehensive study, Carolyn Bronstein challenges common assumptions about the emergence of the U.S. anti-pornography movement by documenting its largely forgotten foundations in grassroots feminism of the 1970s and early 1980s. She has written a social and institutional history of this movement, whose goals and media-reform successes have been neglected by historians. Bronstein dismantles the dominant view of the anti-pornography drive – a tale of a few controversial but high-profile activists focused on legal reform – with a more complex story of organized activists intent on changing a media culture that glorified violence against women. In providing this longer view, Battling Pornography is essential reading for an understanding of American feminism’s complex and often thorny relationship with the media, sexuality, and representation of women’s bodies.” – Carolyn L. Kitch, author of The Girl on the Magazine Cover: The Origins of Visual Stereotypes in American Mass Media

    “The sex wars remain one of the most explosively contested topics in modern feminist history, and most of our accounts come from participants in the various struggles. In Battling Pornography, Carolyn Bronstein relies on groundbreaking archival research to present, for the first time, a beautifully written, analytically astute history of the feminist anti-pornography movement, one that miraculously manages to avoid the partisanship that seems inescapable when it comes to this topic. Surely not every reader will agree with every argument, but it’s impossible not to be impressed by the sheer fairness with which Bronstein assesses the various participants and factions in the movement. This is a true landmark achievement and an important contribution to scholarship on modern sexual politics.” – Whitney Strub, author of Perversion for Profit: The Politics of Pornography and the Rise of the New Right

    “Battling Pornography is a necessary intervention into the history of feminist activism against pornography. Bronstein locates the origins of that activism in early second-wave critiques of sexuality, male violence, and mass media, and her impressive archival research provides a new lens for understanding the initial development of feminist efforts to influence the pornography industry. Battling Pornography chronicles an important and often overlooked dimension of second-wave activism and enriches our understanding of the diversity and impact of late-twentieth-century feminism while adding complexity and nuance to established narratives of the anti-pornography movement.” – Bonnie J. Dow, author of Prime-Time Feminism: Television, Media Culture, and the Women’s Movement Since 1970

    “Well written and thoroughly researched, Battling Pornography succeeds in its ambitious goal of explaining the complex set of feminist groups and ideologies attracted to the American anti-pornography movement in the 1970s and 1980s. An excellent understanding of commercial mass media and their influences on this historical battle strengthens Bronstein’s astute analysis and makes her book a must-read for scholars across a wide range of disciplines.” – Inger L. Stole, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    "Highly recommended." -Choice

    "Carolyn Bronstein reorients our understanding of an important yet highly disputed phase of the modern women’s movement. Bronstein takes an expansive view of the movement’s history." -Carrie Pitzulo, The Journal of American History

    " engaging and nuanced historical book addressing the rise and decline ofthe nation-wide American anti-violence and anti-pornography movements in '70s and '80s." -Darja Davydova, CANADIAN WOMANSTUDIES/LES CAHIERS DE LAFEMME

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2011
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107400399
    • length: 376 pages
    • dimensions: 234 x 156 x 21 mm
    • weight: 0.54kg
    • contains: 19 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Seeds of discontent: the failed promise of the sexual revolution for women
    2. Male violence and the critique of heterosexuality: the influence of radical feminism on the anti-pornography movement
    3. Have you seen Deep Throat yet?: the growth of the commercial sex industry in 1970s America
    4. 'I'm black and blue from the Rolling Stones and I love it!': WAVAW and the campaign against media violence
    5. Something inside me just went 'click': women against violence in pornography and media and the transition to an anti-pornography movement
    6. Growing pains: the emergence of Women Against Pornography and new directions for the feminist anti-pornography movement
    7. Porn tours: tensions and triumphs for WAP
    8. The new lay of the land: WAP assumes leadership of the movement and faces challenges from within and without
    9. Anti-pornography comes undone: the rise of the feminist pro-sex countermovement
    Conclusion: porn is here to stay: the feminist anti-pornography movement in the 1980s and beyond.

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • Media Censorship
    • Seminar on Sexuality Studies
    • Violence Against Women Journal, for book review
  • Author

    Carolyn Bronstein, DePaul University, Chicago
    Carolyn Bronstein is Associate Professor of Media Studies in the College of Communication at DePaul University. Her research investigates questions of media representation and social responsibility, with an emphasis on gender, and her work has been published in such journals as Violence against Women, Camera Obscura and Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly. She is co-editor of Responsible Advocacy: Ethics in Public Relations (2006).

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